#ENCOURAGE

We’ve all been there.  You look around and all you see is gray.  The sun can’t shine bright enough, you feel like you are under attack, there is no end in sight, and there is nobody there to help you. Yep. Been there and got the lousy t-shirt.

So, what do we do?  How do we get through?  Where will we find the strength to get out of bed, put on a smile and head out the door to meet a world that we feel is out to get us?  When will this feeling stop? What can we do for ourselves, and what can we do for those we love who feel this way?

#Encourage them.  #BeEncouraged yourself!

Webster’s defines the word “encourage” like this:

Halfway to 88? Happy B-Day to Me!

Wow.  I am 44 today.  Think back to when you were a teenager.  What is that “oldest age” you ever really pictured yourself as?  Do you remember?  It seems like I do, and it was right about here.  44 years old… (I don’t see that as any type of foreshadowing about what this next year holds, just kind of funny that it popped into my head this morning.)

This last year has been a crazy one, and it looks like I am poised to do it all over again.  Time to give a quick little breakdown about what has happened, what is happening, and how I hope I Relentlessly respond to it.  I like to share since I tend to stay more accountable to some of this stuff when people know about it.

Health – Well, as far as the diabetes goes, I am doing better than great.  My doctor actually stopped me in the hall the other day after my bloodwork hit his desk and gave me a hug.  If you knew my doctor, you would be amazed!   I have kept a normal blood sugar since my diagnosis, have stepped my meds down, and kept my weight down.  I also am showing great numbers in the cholesterol and triglycerides.  Probably the healthiest I have been in 20 years in that regard.

New challenge.  Just found out I have two herniated cervical discs.  Not sure what the treatment will be yet as I am waiting to get in to see the specialist.  Pain is terrible, and I feel basically useless.  Hard to enjoy the above success when I feel this way, but I am pressing on.  My son asked me the other day what the lesson God has for me in this, and I have been thinking about that a lot since He asked.  I still don’t have a solid answer, but I am wondering about something.

I have often wondered if I am modeling a life of dependency on God for my family and friends to see.  I have other friends who I look to and think that they are so dependent on God, and I wish I could be that way too.  Maybe I am starting to model it because my son is asking me what I learn from the trials I face.  He has heard me talk about how God used diabetes to remove food from the throne of my heart.  He has heard that I don’t always need to know why, but I need to trust that God will show what I need to see when I need to see it.

So, Zach, maybe the lesson in this is that God is telling me that while I have not arrived, I am definitely in the process of Relentless Growth in this.  He chose to give me a blessing in the knowledge that you are seeing me try to live a life of dependence.  There may be more to come, but I will take this in humble praise to Him for the moment.

Fatherhood – I am finishing up my last year of what I term as “active parenting”. My role as protector and guide is shifting into advisor and counselor/consultant as Zach will join Jessica at college this fall.  I am so proud of my kids and I know God is going to do great things in their lives.  It is definitely a bittersweet feeling to watch them at this stage and know just how much different things will be at Tanner Manor this fall.

My challenge is to be present, but not controlling.  Available, but not underfoot.  I have often found this balance difficult and tend to pull back rather than be a hassle to the kids (unless I feel they need a good hassling!).  Praying that God gives me the wisdom and insight to be there for them while they are at school.

Husbandhood – Tammi and I have had some amazing discussions this past year, and I hope she agrees that we have grown much closer as a result of them.  Seeing Jessica go to school last year and experiencing that change in our family dynamic has definitely turned me more toward watching Tammi. I see how I have taken advantage of her sometimes in how she always handles things for our family.  I need to be more present for her, attentive to her needs.  Actually think about what could be wrong and what I can do about it rather than just ask her all the time. (She will like that one!)

We are soon going to be just the two of us again, and that is going to mean a little more freedom, but also a little more responsibility.  She will still need to talk about her feelings, thoughts, and dreams, and I will be the only one there.  I will need to shift some of how I tend to love my wife in order to meet that need.  We have talked about it some, and we know we have always done these new things together.  We have been parenting actively for the last two decades, but we only had a little over two years before that as a couple, so this is still a somewhat unexplored realm for us.  It is kind of exciting to think I will be able to have her to myself again though! (Sorry kids, Mom was here first!)

Friendships – It has been a strange year in this regard.  The extensive change that has taken place has pulled us from being as close to some as we once were, but has brought us into new friendships with others.  I think I had set some unrealistic goals in trying to “fast track” some things that needed more time, and that left me feeling discouraged a few times.  This year I want to just be more present in those moments that come before me.  Take the time to identify what God might want me to be in that moment rather than just looking at how I want things to be or what I can get out of it.

My Walk – I started something new a little before my birthday last year.  Every day I post a verse of the day with an image and my thought for personal application.  It has helped me keep the thought alive in my mind every day since I do it before my feet hit the floor.  Over the last year I have gone through Proverbs a couple times, the book of Psalms, and am now going through James.  You can follow those by “Liking” my Relentless Growth Facebook Page.

This next year I would like to find time to expand my time of study and start spending more time in areas that I really need to grow.  I want to be realistic in that though.  For now, maybe the verse a day and writing here a little more often might be the best thing.  Something to pray about for sure.

Priorities – It has been a year of shifting and reassessing for us in many aspects.  Work, family, church, friends, service, and the list goes on.  So many things have shifted and will continue to shift as we enter another year of major change as “empty nesters”.  Praying that God will give me wisdom, grace and insight necessary to lead my wife well with a servant leadership that build into her as we face the challenges together.

I hope I don’t bore you with a long post like this that is basically about me.  I’ll admit that the biggest reason for this post is to take a minute to actually write down and think about what has happened and how I am going to respond to it over the next year.  I need that for me because it helps “reset” the panel.  I can look at everything that has happened. See a little bit better in hindsight and hopefully that gives me insight and if things REALLY work out some foresight!

Let’s face it. Life is Relentless.  It will never stop coming at us.  If we want to get anything of quality out of it, we need to be Relentless in our pursuit of God and in our growth for His glory.  Relentless Growth.  We all need it.

365 days to be 44.  Let’s do this!

Check Your Mirror

For the last few months I have been posting a daily photo on Instagram and on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page that contains a verse and a thought for the day.  Psalms is a book of praise, a songbook of sorts.  It is full of songs of praise and worship to God, encouragement for us, and insights into how we can praise God in the every day moments.  The lyrics in the book of Psalms are truly lyrics for living our lives in relationship with God as David did.

Posting a daily image with a verse and a thought has been really good for me.  Since so much of Psalms drew from David’s coping with adversity, it has been helpful for me in facing the challenges that come across my desk and life on a  daily basis.  I have been shown that I can praise God Relentlessly while I am still IN the trial.  That encouragement has been the source of power that has gotten me through some very hard days without doing or saying something that I would need to apologize for later!

I have also been encouraged by a number of people who have reached out to me over the past year or so of posting these images.  There have been times that I have not “felt” the desire to take the time to read in the morning, but I know that there are a few people who are checking in on me day to day, and that gives me a feeling of responsibility to keep going. It’s not that I have such wisdom to share, it’s all about sharing God’s life changing power at work in my life and the lives of others.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. – Galatians 6:6 (ESV)

So, since I want to share the good things I am learning in hopes that it will help others, and since people are sharing with me as well, this last day in the book of Psalms makes it necessary for me to pick a new book of the Bible to go through.  After a lot of prayer and thinking, it has been made clear to me that the next book I will go through will be James.

The book of James is both one of my favorite books and one of the most convicting I have ever read.  James does a fantastic job of showing us the Truth of God and the example of  Christ as the standard to which we should compare ourselves.  It’s not about being better than the next guy in order to feel good about yourself. It is all about measuring yourself against Christ in an effort to be a bold, Relentless follower who lives for the Kingdom of God.

I don’t do a lot of mirror “selfies”, so enjoy this one!

To put it simply, the book of James is the biblical equivalent of looking in the mirror every morning to see what needs to be done.  When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I see a guy that needs some change! If I were to just walk out the door without making any changes then that would be pretty foolish! I need help!

So, I am going to go to James every morning now to see what I need to fix.  It will be my daily “mirror check” before I put feet on the floor so God can have the first shot at me and turn me in the direction He wants me to go.  My hope is that as I share what He is showing me, it might spark something in someone else too.  Maybe it can be a mirror check for all of us.

If I want to live a Relentless Life, I must be willing to take the time to not only look at what needs to change, but then to take the steps necessary to do it.  If I don’t take those steps, then I am a fool.  I don’t know  about you, but I don’t like to look like a fool.  I want to make the wise decisions that bring God glory as He shapes me into what He wants me to be.

So, starting tomorrow, those of you who are interested can meet me over at the Relentless Growth page for the daily #mirrorcheck.  I hope it will be encouraging to you.  I’m excited to see what God is going to show me about myself and where I need to make adjustments for Him!  Hope to see you there, and I would love to hear what God is doing in your life too!

Happy Birthday, Relentless Growth!

number-candles-perfect-for-any-cakeI started blogging 4 years ago today. The blog page has gone through a lot of changes since then even though you can’t see it here, but I hope the same cannot be said for me.  God has done a lot in my life over the last four years, and I am thankful that I have been able to experience that change and have had the opportunity to share some the story with you.

Click the link here to see how it all began, dig through the archives, feel free to share it with your friends, and let me know if there has been anything that has been a blessing to you.  We all like a little encouragement on our birthdays – even blogs!

Get out there and live a Relentless Life!

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2017 – New Year -> New Focus

902016 has been a wild year, and like many people, I am ready to see it go!  I have said in the past that by year’s end, the year just starts to feel like a shirt that needs to be changed. But this year…  Well, this year the shirt is soaked in kerosene and is on fire… and full of angry yellow jackets… It just needs to go away.

I know we are supposed to have the patience and intelligence to look at the moments of life and see the beauty in them, savor the time, and drink deeply of the experience, but there are times that we just want to grab the spiritual equivalent of a pop-tart and a capri-sun and just run somewhere we can hide.  This year has been one of those times.

We all have weathered a number of tragedies this year including deaths of friends, changes in finances, family changes, celebrity deaths, and probably the biggest trial of the year… an election.  Yeah, that one is not completely going away in 2017 either. Sorry. Keep praying!

Through all of it, I have been really trying to keep that word that I chose last year to be my compass as I dealt with all of it – FOCUS.  It has not always been easy, but it did the trick to pull me back a few times when I started to drift a bit and let the moment’s emotional charge take control of my thoughts and actions.  It was not easy, and now that the end of the year has come, I look back at it and say that it was a good word.  A timely word.

So, now it’s time for the word for 2017.  I’ve been giving a lot of thought over the past few days as to what that word might be, and as the feelings of the past year have been going through my mind as well, there is one word that has come to mind:

Resilient: capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture; tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change; able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed; able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.

There have been many times over the past 12 months that I have been left feeling battered, bruised, and beaten.  The stresses and the demands of life, relationships, work, learning, and enduring have been tough!  Sometimes I think I barely escaped with my sanity intact! (Some may argue that there was no way I would be able to hang on to that one!)

I had times when my temper got the better of me. Times when I shut down and didn’t want to engage because I just felt too drained. There were times when I know that my energy level was sapped not by physical activity, but by mental and emotional exhaustion.  None of this is healthy, and it has taken me much of the year to figure out where some of it has come from.  A lack of Resilience.

resilienceSo, how do I get built up to be more Resilient?  How do I make sure that at the end of the day I have more of me left than I have day?  How do I make sure that I am able to provide what is needed to those I love or lead?  How do I come back from the hurts and the pains that will inevitably hit me as the year goes by?

  1. Start with the source of Resilience. – I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13  Just ask Him for the power to do things.  He has more than enough!
  2. Stay humble – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:10 When you start thinking you can go it alone, you will quickly come face to face with how short your road will be.
  3. Keep the focus on Christ and His kingdom – Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – Hebrews 12:2-3  As we look at Christ and His life, we see His ability to face challenges because His eye was on doing His Father’s work.  He was working for the kingdom!
  4. No matter what happens, remember God is on your side – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9  When God is on your side you will win the war! Just keep fighting!
  5. Pray for Resilience – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 Prayer is our best weapon when we are attacked and in pain. Crying out to God, sharing our struggle with Him and asking for His sustaining grace is key in bouncing back from a trial.
  6. Be content – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. – Philippians 4:12  There are things that we need and things that we want.  Look at how God always comes through with your needs and ask Him to help you find His heart with your wants.
  7. Keep moving forward – We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9  If we stop moving, we start dying.  Have a Relentless attitude that will not settle for giving up.
  8. Give thanks in all situations – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  No matter how bad things may seem, there is someone out there in a worse situation than you are.  Thank God for the blessings you have here on earth, and for His promises beyond this life!
  9. Give God the glory – Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. – Habakuk 3:17-18  We do have a part in the outcomes in our lives, but we get where we are going through God’s strength and grace.  We owe Him the glory!
  10. Remember that this is not the end – I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:13  This verse has been my anchor since April 2010.  God has shown repeatedly that I am on a journey, and I am so thankful I am with Him as I travel!

Trials?  Yep. They’re gonna keep coming.  Troubles? They will be there, and sometimes they will bring their friends Worry, Doubt, and Fear to the party.  It’s gonna happen, but it’s not the end.  We will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.  God will not let us down, and He will provide the strength we need to bounce back when we are drawing on Him.

I want this to be another Relentless year of growth.  I want to take the lessons I learned about being focused (even when I failed in them) and combine it with a Relentless intensity that takes the power God has promised to me in order to have that little extra something at the end of the day to make me a better husband, father, and friend.  While it would be nice to somehow avoid the hard times, I don’t want them to keep me captive and in a funk.

At the end of the day I want to stand up and say that I am blessed by God to stand in His strength because I never trusted my own.  I want that for you too!

So, how about it?  What does the next year look like for you?  what is your word?  What is your focus for growth?  Where do you see yourself as we approach 2018?  There is a lot of time between now and then to get moving in the right direction!  So, go get after it!

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments, and as always, I appreciate the shares and follows.  Thanks for reading!

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Time to Study

This weekend I have been rattling around the house by myself while my wife and son are in Ohio at Cedarville University.  My son Zach had an audition for a spot in the worship program at the college (Which he got! Way to go, Zach!) and then they are spending the weekend there before bringing my daughter home for Thanksgiving break.  I posted the other day that I was going to make a list of things to do in order to keep me accountable for my time while they were gone, and I would say that things have gone well.

I had the bulk of my list done on Friday with the longer items held for Saturday and today.  The CHRISTmas lights are up, the house has been kept tidy, the garage is clean, the chest in our room has been reconditioned, and while not on the list, I have shoveled a ton of snow this morning!  There is only one thing left to do:8446-shhhhh-quiet-everyone-study-wallpaper

STUDY

Life has been pretty busy lately.  While that seems to be the norm, the intensity of life lately has made it difficult to have any real time to put into studying God’s Word.  I have my daily verse I post, and I get in the occasional Quiet Time, but there has not been any real opportunity for me to just sit down and really dig into anything.  Well, at least not any opportunities I have been willing to recognize in the moment.

So, this weekend I have been trying to use the extra time here at home alone to allow my mind to FOCUS on what I should do.  I started thinking about using this time when I realized I would have it a couple weeks ago.  I wanted to put some serious thought into what God wanted me to get out of it.

As I thought about it, I remembered something I had heard somewhere and then heard it again when my wife also mentioned it several months ago:

Every Christian should determine to become an authority on at least one book of the Bible.

That little thought has been niggling around in the back of my mind for a while.  I tell people that I want Relentless Growth in Christ, and what better way to do that than to really dig in and learn about a book of the Bible so well that through time spent in it I can apply it into every aspect of my life?  The Bible is the avenue to a closer relationship with God, and knowing His Word that well is a life-changing endeavor.

So, while puttering around, completing my list of chores this weekend I have been thinking about where God may be leading me to spend my time studying.  What book of the Bible would be the launchpad for me?  What does He want me to learn?  What does He want me to overcome?  What does He want me to share with others?  Where is He leading this Relentless journey of mine?

As I thought and prayed over it this weekend, I have felt a desire to look into two books.  The reason I chose these books just seemed to become more and more clear as I thought about my life and how God has worked in it over the last 10 years in particular. In some ways, I feel like I have a kinship to the authors as a result of my life.

I have mentioned in the past that I was saved as a young kid, and as a result I have struggled with the feeling that I wasted an opportunity to grow closer to God because my Christian life was basically all I ever knew. I don’t have a real “turn from sin to God” moment.  No radical life change where I left an old me and became a new me.  It was not fully appreciated until after I was asked to teach an adult Sunday School class and I finally started to really read and seek to understand the Bible.  Then I realized what I had!

So, as a good old-fashioned Baptist, fully indoctrinated to feel guilt and shame over things I had done wrong and unwilling to forgive myself for past sins, I began to try to learn how God actually wants me to live my life.  It was time to move on past the feelings of missed opportunity to get to know God better as a teenager and young adult, and just get down to the business of knowing Him!  God doesn’t close the window of opportunity to know Him better to His children.

Thinking about that this weekend I began to think about people in the Bible who might have felt the same way.  Eventually (I am slow sometimes), two names came to mind.  They were both men who had similar opportunities to mine to know God REALLY well when they were young, but didn’t take advantage of it in those days.  It wasn’t until later that they fully realized the opportunity they had been given, and then they made the best of it, being willing to be used by God to the point of being the instruments the Holy Spirit used to write two books of the Bible!  Talk about getting it together!

So, who are these guys?  They are half brothers of Christ, James and Judas (Jude).  They grew up alongside the God-man, Jesus, but didn’t fully realize who He was, what He was here to do, and what it really meant for them until later in life.  See the connection?

I have spent time studying James before, but I have never spent any time in Jude other than a quick read.  In truth, I have avoided it because I connect it with a very hard time in my teenage years.  A former pastor used one of the verses in Jude as his “life verse” and  after how he spiritually abused me and many others I have not been willing to give the book much of a look since.  Funny how we blame God for how people mess up…

bible-jude4So, after looking at these two books, reading some commentary about them, and praying about it even more, I feel God is leading me to dig into the book of Jude.  It’s a short book, but I think it is going to be more than just a book to learn.  I think it is going to be an opportunity to dig into some stuff that might be hiding in me over past hurts.  Some bitterness that still needs to be dealt with.  Some confession of anger and forgiveness that needs to occur.

I don’t know exactly what will come of this at this point, but that is the joy of it!  I am open to what God wants me to get, and I am excited to take the journey.

My goal for the rest of the day today is to begin breaking some things down for a framework of study.  Not sure what I will find, but I am excited about it.  I look forward to sharing thing I learn with those interested or those who happen across the blog in days to come.  I’ll to make promises about timetables or schedules, but I do plan on sharing as time permits.

So, time for me to get to work.  I hope in some small way this is an encouragement to others to dig into the Word as well.  We have so much to learn, and are blessed with a God who is so willing to teach.  Dig in.  Be Relentless!

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New Year, Fresh Fail…

failSo, a couple weeks ago I sat down and wrote a blog mentioning some goals I have for myself this year.  Now that we are 11 days in, I thought it was time to give a report:

So far, this year is a fail.  Let me tell you why.

  1. Writing at least 5 times per week? – Try this is the first time since January 1.  Doing the math on that I am only about, well, 10 days behind.  Need to work on that.
  2. Reading my Bible every day? – Well, better on this one.  There has been at least a few minute look into it every day, but I have not been the scholar that I have set out to be this year thus far.
  3. My health? – Well, we all get that holiday bulge, right?  I haven’t gained a lot, but I need to get that focus back if I am going to make positive change with a declining poundage!
  4. Me as an employee? – Depends in what you are looking at.  I have been VERY busy, but it has all been in handling the urgent things that have been coming up.  Most of the important work I feel I need to get done has been pushed aside.  I’m busy, and people are happy, but this is building in the background…

So, yeah. Not where I wanted to see myself 11 days into the year.  The thing to remember is that I have 355 days left in 2016 to turn it around! (Thank you, Leap Year!) There is no reason to let it get me down.  It’s just a reminder to keep the focus where it belongs.

Where does it belong though?  If I’m just focusing on these things, it will get very easy to be busy doing these good things, but in the end I could miss out on the best thing – seeing God at work in them.

The Bible is so great in how it tells us where we need to keep our focus in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life.  Solomon tells us about amazing, wonderful things that he was able to experience, and in the end it was like chasing the wind.  The Proverbs repeat over an over how important it is to keep a wise focus in our actions.  David tells us in the Psalms that in the middle of war, turmoil and family squabbles, all He really needed was God in His life.  Paul tells us that he doesn’t want to live his life in a way that is like just batting at the air.

All the things that we get busy with are not bad things unless they are pulling our focus from God.  Yesterday our Pastor talked about the importance of abiding in God.  Abiding in Him is what we are called to do.  The thing is, we get hung up on all the stuff that we are doing that are good things that will bear fruit, but the truth is that NOTHING WE DO will ever bear fruit.  That comes from God. He is the vine that brings life to the branch and in the life is the fruit.  Apart from Him we can never bear fruit.

We can live busy lives, but if we are not RELENTLESS about living in a way that keeps our focus on Him in our business, we are wasting time, energy, and maybe even our witness. Ouch.  None of us wan that, so what can you do?

Take time at the end of the day today and think about the things that kept you busy.  Ask yourself if God ever came to mind in those moments.  If He didn’t, maybe it would be a good thing to ask Him for a bit of forgiveness for shutting Him out or at the very least ignoring Him.  Then, take note of those moments and make a commitment to take control of that moment the next time and give it to Him.  Ask Him in that moment what He is trying to teach, what the eternal value of the action is, how your action or attitude might be modified to bring glory to Him in it.  Maybe you just need to ask if you should be doing it at all!

The new year is always going to bring fresh fails, but a RELENTLESS year is going to take those failures and use them to grow closer to God.  Even in the crazy times!

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Tomorrow I Am Dropping a Load.

d0e3072a5eb59ceacee00b148c090c0cDo you ever get that feeling that you are carrying too much? That feeling like you have a heavy armload of something too important to drop, but you can’t find a place to lay it down? Before long, you can’t even move because of the weight of the load and the fear of dropping it paralyzes you.

You don’t get that feeling? Oh. I guess that it’s just me…

Lately life has had a lot of stuff going on for our little family. The weight has been heavy, and the spots to set things down are few and far between. To complicate matters even more, we seem to pick other things up along the way. Yep. Gluttons for punishment, we are!

Why do we do that? Well, I can’t answer for my family, but I can answer for myself. I think it is based on two things that are very different, but both lead to the same thing – a worn-out Tom! Why yes, I did plan on sharing, so here we go!

FEAR

Of what? Failure. Disappointment. Loss. Hurt. Damaging a relationship. Career suicide. Watching someone else go through pain. Being seen as “not good enough. Take your pick. Some days it is one or two of them. Lately it has felt like all of them at once at least once a week.

What do I do about it? Well, I have tried worry. That hasn’t worked out very well, even though it does seem to be the “go-to” method for most of us. I have found that all it does is make the fear worse. I’ve also tried thinking about other things. Surprisingly, the head in the sand approach will only work until you take your head out to get a breath, and then it all comes crashing back on you again.

HEROISM

What? How can heroism be a bad thing? Well, I think one of the reasons I have been so heavy-laden lately is that deep down, I want to be the guy that can come in and be a hero for someone. I hear of a problem, and I want to step in and take care of it. It sounds noble, but I am coming to understand something. Helping people is not a bad thing, but needing to help people might be.

When I overextend myself by helping people at the expense of my responsibilities, I am not making a wise choice. Instead, I might be robbing someone of a chance to grow and do new things just so I can revel in their adoration of me. (Was that too much?)

So, how do I stop this? What can I do tomorrow to drop a load that I never should have been carrying? How can I just let go and feel that release?

Look at who should own what I am carrying. – Some of the stuff that I carry is not mine to carry! Some of it I should be carrying, but maybe I am carrying more of it than I should. Is it that the other person is not doing their part, or am I just trying to take it onto myself for one of the two reasons above? When I figure out whose load I have, it is time to drop what is not mine and let that person have it back. It might take some apologizing, and grace, but I have got to let it go.

Look at what I am carrying. – Is it even worth carrying? I’m not going to make fun of “preppers”, but I am thinking that a drop in the DOW over oil prices should not make me start putting a bunker in my back yard tomorrow night. Some of the load just needs to be set aside because it is only impacting my life because I have refused to set it down. Bitterness, hurt feelings, concerns about the future. So many things that I cannot impact or influence. Do what I can, but drop the rest of it.

Look at what I might pick up. – Should I take this load on? That e-mail that might have had a snarky tone? The request for something that is simple enough for the person to do for themselves? Is it something that needs to be done? What do I expect to get out of it? Is it an option or an order? The ultimate measure of whether or not it should be done – will it bring God glory?

The last few days have felt quite heavy, but I am in a spot right now to drop the load. I want to live my life in a Relentless way, and that means I can’t carry everything. I just want to have what God wants me to have. He had asked me to take His yoke and pull with Him. If I am keeping my focus on God and what He wants, I will see more clearly what I should take up.

How about you? Are you carrying too much? Are you feeling a load on your shoulders that is slowly pulling you down? Stop. Take an inventory. Give it a hard look and see if you are carrying things that you shouldn’t and let them go. It is easier to fight the battles that come along when you aren’t carrying things you don’t need, and every day is a battle.

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Tammi’s Birthday List

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Who couldn’t love that smile?

Well, I know it is not considered proper to announce the age of a lady, so I will not do that. On this, my wife’s birthday, I am simply going to choose to list 44 reasons why I love my wife. If you read anything into that, it’s on you. I am innocent of any type of skullduggery. Well, here goes!

44. The best-tasting roast beef to ever come out of a crock-pot.
43. My vitamin container would never be full.
42. All the opportunities I have had to do home renovation!
41. The roll of her eyes when I tell a bad joke. (Because I am sure she loves all the jokes and is simply feigning disgust in hopes that I will continue to fill her life with laughter.)
40. She exposed me to Downton Abbey, and she was right!
39. Her beautiful brown eyes that just make my heart melt.
38. The way she says “bagel”. She thinks I make fun of her, but it’s cute.
37. Her eye for design in our house. She is amazing.
36. Her “happy dance” when she is excited about something.
35. The way she takes care of people when she sees a need.
34. Her organizational abilities. (Really, people. She is worth hiring to come into your home and help you with this stuff. You should see her sock drawer!)
33. The joy she shows when taking pictures and recording the memories of our family trips and events.
32. Her planning skills for vacations. (We do a good job together on this one, but she is Awesome!)
31. The joy that just poured out of her when she told me we were going to have our kids.
30. Her sacrificial spirit when it comes to our family.
29. That she only likes the red jellybeans.
28. Scheduling. (Seriously, It’s like there is a gene or a gland or something that I don’t have and she has one bigger than my fist!)
27. She trusts me.
26. The way she laughs when you even mention the movie “Old Dogs.”
25. Her forgiving heart.
24. She went out with me for the first time 24 years ago in September.
23. Her mutual agreement that we do not play board games due to the inherent family dysfunction they bring into a family of first-born type personalities.
22. Without her I would never have known the importance of a bed skirt – maybe not even the definition…
21. 21 years of marriage next month
20. Chicken Parmesan in the crock-pot. Yep. That good!
19. The way she dreams with me about our future, our home, and our plans.
18. Her forgiving spirit.
17. Her desire to grow in Christ.
16. She gave me two great kids
15. She shows me unconditional love and support.
14. Her “pushes” to get me out of my comfort zone and do new things. (Disclaimer: This should not be viewed as a free pass to gut my closet or anything else.)
13. How she doesn’t rub my nose it when I am wrong. (+95% of the time, and I probably deserve it about +99% of the time!)
12. Late night talks that end with us just falling asleep without knowing it. (Maybe that’s not a good thing on my part…)
11. The way she just fits in my arms.
10. Her laugh.
9. The respect she gives me.
8. The way she lets me take care of her.
7. That she brings me breakfast at work from time to time.
6. She agreed to be my wife.
5. All the time we have spent and will spend working together on projects.
4. She is generous.
3. She is a hard worker.
2. She loves me.
1. She is my best friend.

 
Of all the items on this list, that last one is probably the reason that we are so happy together. She is an amazing lady, and this list just scratches the tip of the iceberg that is Tammi. I’m a blessed man to be sure.

keep-calm-happy-birthday-babe-i-love-youTammi, I wish you the happiest of birthdays, and with all the craziness of life right now, I want you to know that I love you very much, and I cannot begin to tell you the joy you fill me with. If it were not for you, your support, and your love, I would probably not be what I am today.

They say that for every good man, there is a good woman behind him. Well, if I’m a good man, it is because you are at my side where God intended you to be as we journey life together. Having you there allows us to be in tight relationship and helps us stay on the same page – even if I have to have you help me read the big words!

This year, I pray that God will bless you in many ways. That He will show Himself strong to you, that your trust in Him would grow easily, and your comfort in Him will be complete. I’m glad that as we walk, our Relentless desire is to grow closer together as we grow closer to Him.

Happy Birthday, Babe! I love you!

To My 16 Year-Old Son – Happy Birthday!

10947232_910103895675869_4578714176413601194_nZachary turns 16 today!  Since it has become a custom, here is the birthday blog post to this little homeboy that seems to be growing up into quite the young man.  Allow me to brag on my boy here for a little while.  If it seems to mushy for you, then feel free to go find a YouTube video of sword fighting cats or something.  I don’t mind at all.

Zach,

I can’t believe you are already 16 years old.  The time has flown by, and while I have always been aware of how fast it moves, I can honestly say that this last year has been a bigger blur than usual!  There have always been certain “parts” of who you are that seem to develop more in a 12 month period than others, but the changes in you over the last 12 months have been astonishing in all aspects.

Physically – Dude, I can honestly say that I am starting to regret telling you that the day you can whip me you will have earned it.  You’re becoming a tank, and I am starting to feel the need to watch you out of the corner of my eye just in case you decide it is time to go for it!  I’ve always enjoyed wrestling with you and goofing off together like that, and I beam with pride when I hear people say things like, “I just saw your son. What have you been feeding him?”  Acorn & Tree. Chip & Block.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

10301298_10204434300596039_4767409375357062929_nMentally – This past year of school has been impressive to say the least.  Your Mom and I are very proud of the work that you have done over the year in studies that are intended for an older student, but you have not only done well in your classes, you have OWNED them!  To see the way that you are grasping complex concepts as well as learning to write at a higher level has been a joy.  This next year as you start on college courses, we feel confident that you will continue to excel in what you do.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Emotionally – We’ve had some important conversations over the past year when it comes to handling emotions in a godly manner like a man should.  The conversation that we had just the other day meant more to me than you will probably ever know, and as a man I was impressed, but as a Dad I could not have been more proud of you.  Learning to handle our emotional responses is vital in our relationships, and you are learning it at a younger age than I did.  My hope is that by doing so, you will be in a better position to handle the hard things of life as they come across your path than I was. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.11205523_10205739218578173_7479264338994749135_n

Relationally – I have seen you develop better and stronger friendships over the past year.  You are learning better how to be a friend to those in your peer groups, and sometimes that means calling them out!  I’ve seen you do that on a few occasions over the past year, and that is a testament to the man you are becoming.  Not because you told someone they were wrong, but because you came alongside someone and helped them see a damaging thing in their lives and helped them for their benefit, not for your ego.  You didn’t throw a judgement and walk away, you stayed with them to help them.  That’s a trait that honors God, and I am so proud to see that in you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.10730949_10205859982517196_4482399068858361253_n

Musically – Your guitar skills have taken a huge leap over the past year, and I thought you were really good then!  The passion that you have for your music shows when you play because it flows out of your heart.  I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with you as you continue to look at your music skills and how you can develop them more.  I know it is going to be big with you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Spiritually – Zach, since your birthday last year, you have a new relationship with Christ, and it is making a difference in you in ways that are impacting these other aspects of your life.  You have been in your Bible more, reading some better books for spiritual growth, journaling, and focusing on not only the act of playing of worship, but worshipping in your playing.  Over the last 12 months I challenged you to grow in your life spiritually, and I have been so thankful for what I have seen God doing in you as you accepted that challenge.   You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

11150650_10206570837340696_2142947637021693128_nYou might have noticed a phrase repeated through this. (I hope so, I just said you were smart!)  I want you to know that I write that as a challenge.  I see so much potential in you to go farther and grow more, and while I am impressed with what the last year has been like, I believe that you are just getting going!  There are things that God is going to do with you as you keep yourself tender toward Him, and I know that He has plans for you that are beyond my imagination.  Are you open to it?

I want you to be Relentless in the growth process.  Growing is never done until you are dead.  I want you to never feel that you have arrived, but to have a hunger to keep pushing to be the best that you can be.  I’m proud of you, and I always will be.  I want you to be able to look back on your life one day and say,

“I’ve grown a lot over the past year, but I don’t see me being done just yet.”

I love you, son.  Happy Birthday!

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